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As the co-founder of beverage consulting and event marketing company OMvino, San Francisco-based advanced sommelier Jennifer Estevez has had the unique opportunity to apply her knowledge of food and wine in many different ways. At times, it means helping wineries, restaurants and beverage companies bring their brands to life via social media. And at other times, it means consulting on wine lists and beverage programs or helping out with events such as restaurant openings. Her goal is simple: to bring her own love and passion for wine to a much broader audience that might not have as much time to learn about or study wine as professional sommeliers.
As part of her recent client work with an online wine club app Palate Club, for example, Estevez has had a unique opportunity to travel the world, looking for new wines to share with customers. And that has reinforced her belief about the importance of keeping an open mind about wines. “Be humble,” Estevez advises young sommeliers. “You probably don’t know as much about wine as you think you do.”
Case in point: Estevez recently returned back from a 30th birthday trip to South Africa, absolutely blown away by the quality of winemaking in the region. Her personal favourite: a Constantia Uitsig Méthode Cap Classique 2015 Brut, made in the traditional champagne method. In fact, says Estevez, if you compared this New World champagne-style sparkling wine next to a bottle of champagne from France, you might not be able to tell the difference. And making this fact all the more extraordinary says Estevez, is that the winemaker was actually a 27-year-old woman.
Before her trip to South Africa, Estevez travelled to seven other countries around the world, in search of the perfect undiscovered wine that did not yet have representation in the United States. After a whirlwind tour of Europe and Australia, her opinions about wine changed: “I was really surprised by the quality of wines in the lesser-known wine regions. The best wines are not making it out of the country.” In Australia, for example, Estevez and her business partner made it a mission to track down new and upcoming producers. Often, it was just a matter of contacting a really iconic producer, and asking a very simple question, “Who else should we see?” From there, it was literally a matter of knocking on doors and asking for a meeting.
Her own experience in the restaurant industry has really shaped the way Estevez thinks about wine. When thinking about food and wine pairings, for example, you need to be able to balance traditional wine knowledge with your own personal tastes and preferences. Don’t assume that there is only one perfect pairing for each wine, or that you should always follow the advice of a so-called wine expert. For example, her favourite pairing with champagne is actually French fries. Other personal food-wine favourites include pairing truffle popcorn or creamy English scones with champagne.
As part of discovering the perfect wine for your wine palate, you also have to think about how wine fits into your current lifestyle. Before founding OMvino, Estevez worked long days and nights in restaurants as a sommelier. And now, too, she is completely immersed in the world of wine, studying to be a Master Sommelier. But she’s also a yoga instructor and a deep believer in the need to take time for yourself when needed. The name of her company, in fact, is a reference to the world of yoga since “Om” is the sound chanted at the start and finish of a yoga session. As a result, the wines that she enjoys the most are also the ones that make her feel like she is taking time for herself.
Going forward, Estevez is very excited about just how fast OMvino and its beverage consulting business is expanding. She now has clients in New York as well as Los Angeles, in addition to a growing international clientele. More time working abroad with international clients should pave the way for many more exciting opportunities to discover wines that may be unknown or under-appreciated in the United States, but just as high-quality as other, more famous wines made in the same style.